Penboscot Bay Press Compass Logo

Penobscot Bay Press
Community Information Services

News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, May 22, 2014
MCHT puts Harbor Island up for sale
Easement provides for permanent public access

Harbor Island, Maine, is for sale

Harbor Island, a 22-acre island in Bucks Harbor, Brooksville, is back on the market after Maine Coast Heritage Trust purchased it in December 2012, but it now has a conservation easement ensuring public access.

Photo courtesy of Chris Pinchbeck, courtesy of Maine Coast Heritage Trust

by Anne Berleant

Sixteen months after purchasing Harbor Island, Maine Coast Heritage Trust announced the 22-acre heart-shaped island in Bucks Harbor is back on the market.

The trust paid $2.35 million for the island in December 2012; the listed sell price is $1.275 million. The lesser amount reflects conservation provisions for permanent public access on a part of the western lobe of the island, and that will limit development, according to a press release.

The conservation easement also requires the placement of any new residential dwelling to be set back from the shore—further than the house that burned down in August 2013 after being struck by lightning.

The trust had originally raised $1.5 to purchase the island through pledged private donations and grants. However, the remaining $850,000 could not be raised, said MCHT Director of Communications Rich Knox, in a recent telephone call.

In addition, a portion of the money pledged was never collected and some returned to donors whose pledge was contingent upon the entire island being purchased.

“Sometimes a conservation organization accesses financing to preserve a property in the short term and then seeks to raise funds to cover the purchase. If it cannot raise the funds, it may resell the property with conservation provisions that limit further development,” Knox said. “This was an example of that.”

“If the money had been there [to be raised] in the community, we would have kept the whole island as a preserve, but the money wasn’t there,” he continued. “So, we’re doing a little bit less than half that.”

If the island sells at its listed price, MCHT will “about” break even,” Knox said. “We take some risks. We have to move fast [on land purchases] before someone else buys to develop it.”

Harbor Island has been owned for nearly a century by the Kurt and Waller families, who bought the island in 1927 to save it from being logged for pulp. It had been for sale with LandVest, which is again listing the property.

“Our conversations with the selectmen and people around town have made it clear that this outcome is appreciated by the community,” said Ciona Ulbrich, senior project manager at MCHT, in the press release. “It will balance continuation of the town’s property tax income potential with a conservation result that maintains the integrity of the island and provides permanent access for the public.”